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Mom scratches at bugs that aren't there

Answered by Karen Garner

March 19, 2015

My 86 yr old mother has vascular dementia. For several months, she claims that things are crawling all over her body. She scratches so much that she has open sores throughout her body. She even scratches while sleeping. She gets very upset, cries, and accuses me of not caring for her at least once a day. She gets angry because I don’t help her or take her to an emergency room. What can I do to help her?

First of all, I want to tell you how sorry I am you are going through this with your mom. I know it is difficult to watch the person who raised you, nurtured you and taught you so much to be a person you don’t recognize or understand. There are medications available to help with her delusions and irritability. It is important to get her to stop the scratching because those open sores can get infected and cause secondary infections that, combined with her dementia, will acerbate her symptoms. My first recommendation is to take her to the doctor. You will probably end up having several doctor visits scheduled. My second recommendation is to make sure you have a support system and someone you can talk to. This is a very difficult journey and you cannot go it alone. I know it won’t help much, but her symptoms are very common and you are not alone in hearing hurtful words come from someone you care so deeply for. I have read many articles and heard from many others about medications helping with the delusions and getting so upset. If you don’t get good answers with your primary doctor, keep going until you find a doctor who understands and will listen and help. You are her advocate and although it puts a lot of pressure on you, finding a way to help her will ultimately make your life much better.

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